That Guy

August 9, 2018 § 13 Comments

What do you do when That Guy shows up to your ride? And by “your” I mean “no one’s,” because no one owns a ride.

Surely this has happened to you before. You are going along doing things the way you always do them, which is often the wrong way but it’s your way nonetheless, and That Guy magically appears out of the mist.

Sometimes he is riding a bike with giant aero fenders, sometimes he is riding an e-bike, sometimes he is riding a pogo stick, sometimes he is riding a cruiser with a 2-stroke bolted to the frame.

Regardless of what he’s riding, he’s still That Guy.

And what do you do?

Don’t go away mad, just go away

That Guy has all sorts of tools in his box to announce his arrival. Sometimes he simply does it the old-fashioned way, with a booming announcement. “Hello, everyone, my name is That Guy. I’m from Thatguyville, Thatguystate, and I’m so glad to be here and to get to meet each of you!”

That Guy is exuberant, effusive, loud, and wherever the sunbeam of attention is, That Guy will find it, strip down to his skivvies, and bathe in it for hours.

Other times, That Guy will simply approach cringing women in the peloton. “Hey, there! I’m That Guy!” he might say from a distance of six inches. “What’s your name?”

That Guy’s bag of tricks is endless. One day a Strava fan, another day a Facebag follower, yet another day an informal coach screaming at people who are already pinned, “Go harder! Dig deeper! YOU GOT THIS!” Screaming advice as he himself gets dropped, mind you.

Show up for the ride on time? Not That Guy! Look, listen, learn? Not That Guy!

When faced with That Guy’s force of will soldered to his outlandish behavior, others wilt, then they simply stop showing up.

No nerve endings here

That Guy can’t be offended. “Shut the fuck up, you jackass!” doesn’t work on That Guy; it’s simply another spotlight being shined on him, an opportunity to be the cynosure.

“Hey, relax, willya!” That Guy will answer with an impish We’re-All-Best-Buds grin. “I’m just happy to be out here on my bike!”

Don’t bother saying that thanks to him, no one else is. His perceptions of what those around him think have been cauterized.

That Guy is like a giant, 165-pound puppy that hasn’t been housebroken and is sitting on your lap. Hope you brought a shower and a change of clothes with you.

What’s a fella to do?

You can’t tell That Guy to go away. The roads are public, and who are you, anyway, owner of the ride? Rides, yo, are free.

You can’t give That Guy a list of Rules and Regulations. There aren’t any. People who ride together year in and year out develop an understanding of what’s cool and what isn’t. And with few exceptions, cycling in small groups isn’t a shoutypantsing activity anyway. When people get crosswise, they may holler every once in a rare while, but mostly they talk it over.

You can’t pull That Guy over and give him a talking to. That’s exactly the attention he craves. It’s like chumming the sharks and expecting them to go away.

If only there were a public, but sort of roundabout way, to let That Guy know he really needs to tone his act down. Something like a publication, or a newspaper, or some kind of blog that a person could use to spread the word so that That Guy would get the message.

If only!

END

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The cyclist superiority complex

August 8, 2018 § 28 Comments

I just finished a book called “How Cycling Can Save the World” by Peter Walker. My friend Marv gave it to me a while back and it’s been dust collecting with all my other unread books. The title wasn’t very compelling, and I figured there wasn’t going to be anything in it I didn’t already know, and if I want to read preachy incoherent ramblings by a madman I can peruse my own blog posts.

Well, I take it all back. It is a fantastic read even though it pillories a guy I highly regard, John Forester. More about all that later, as the book can’t be done justice in a single post. Instead, I want to focus on Chapter 8, “Why Cyclists Are Hated.”

Why cyclists are hated

Walker goes into a lot of detail about the ways in which cyclists are abused, but he never really comes around to explaining why. The reason is simple. We have a superiority complex and it drives cagers crazy.

“That’s not true!” you holler. “I accept all modes of transportation! I even have a car! I’m not trying to save the world! I just want to make the Flog Ride on time!”

Unfortunately, every act of cycling is a massive middle finger to every cager you encounter, whether they like you, hate you, own a bike, ride a bike, or have never sat on a bike. The reason is simple: At the moment a bike and a car interact, the bicycle is obviously the superior mode of transportation, and no matter what anyone says, roads are all about transportation.

The cyclist you encounter is by definition superior to you in your car as a means of transport: She is healthier than you, spending less money than you, getting where she wants to go more efficiently than you, avoiding the hassles of parking, never in a traffic jam, and when she’s done she gets to have a donut.

You, on the other hand, are in a car. Sorry, in a cage. At that moment in time you are sedentary, sitting on your ever-widening ass. Your blood pressure is already elevated. You have a car payment, insurance, a mostly empty gas tank, and a postcard from Martin Chevrolet telling you it’s time to get screwed in the service department again.

You are in traffic, you have to find a parking space, then pay for it directly or indirectly, and ultimately, indignity of indignities, walk anywhere from a hundred yards to a quarter mile total distance to get to your destination. As a transportation proposition, you lose and you know it. You lose and the cyclist knows it. Ergo, smug.

Rubbing salt into the wound

These facts are outrageous to cagers, but it gets worse. When you are on a bike you can’t really see anything about the driver. But when you’re in a car you get to see the entirety of the cyclist. And you know what you see? If the person is wearing lycra, you see someone with body confidence, and you compare it to yourself.

If the person is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, you see someone casual and comfortable, stretching their limbs as you are crammed inside the cockpit of your badly fitting seat. Worse if you happen to be extremely tall, extremely short, or extremely overweight … you’re in a torture chamber.

Maybe you could live with all that if it weren’t for the fact that, despite the outliers, the average person on a bicycle looks so much better than the average person sitting in traffic. Their legs are toned. Their proportions are normal. They scream “NOT LIKE YOU” as you sag deeper into your driver’s seat.

Oh, and if you’re really unlucky, they’re using lane control and are actually in front of you.

Why this matters

Of course there are advantages to driving a car, for example, you live 50 miles from work, or you don’t like to get rained and snowed on, or you are allergic to sweat, or you carry massive boxes wherever you go, or you have a phobia of being outdoors. There may be other advantages I’ve overlooked. But at the moment you see any given person on a bicycle, they are, by definition, kicking your ass in the transportation battle, and the only defense you have is physical violence.

This of course is why noxious cagers troll up next to you and advise you that “The car always wins, pal.”

Of course if the question is, “Which weapon is more deadly?” then the car certainly wins. That’s why you don’t really have a rejoinder to it. But on the roadway, the competition is to get to your destination efficiently, not to kill people. In fact, killing people in your car is highly inefficient. You have to stop. Talk to the police. Explain how you didn’t see the biker who swerved in front of you while you were texting. Sometimes you even have to pay a modest traffic fine. So even when cagers are killing cyclists, they’re still inefficient losers at the transportation game.

The car always loses, at least when it’s sharing the road with a bike, and when we’re talking about transportation.

This matters because once you realize that cars and bikes are in competition, and cars are always the loser, it explains the rage of so many cagers, a rage they sometimes enact by doing the roadway equivalent of beating you up, i.e., running you over. But just because you’re dead or maimed doesn’t mean that their car is any more efficient. It just means they have to take it to the carwash to sponge off the gore, which, sadly, is yet another inefficiency.

This also explains why so many drivers are impervious to rational explanations about how you’re not really taking away their roadway, their parking, blah blah blah. It’s a lie and they know it. You are not only beating them at the transportation game, but every victory you notch encourages someone else to try it, and pretty soon the ants have carried away the elephant.

Can bikes and cars coexist?

In the long term, I don’t see how. It’s a zero sum game, because the more bike infrastructure that gets planted, the more people ride and the less they want to drive, and they therefore want to provide less space for cars. With the exception of Australia, a nation with an explicit anti-cycling agenda, every country that has become bicycle friendly has had to build more and more bike infrastructure and make cars less and less welcome.

It’s a small step from bike lanes to segregated bike lanes to shutting off the town center to cars.

It’s not because bikes are anti-car, it’s because cars are horribly inefficient and costly and filthy compared to bikes, and when bikes are given even the slightest opening, to say nothing of a level playing field, they completely destroy the car culture. The converse is true, too. It’s no coincidence that Japan and China’s full-gas commitment to cars has exterminated a formerly vibrant and all-encompassing culture of bike transportation.

So the next time someone accuses you of being snobby and superior, the fairest thing you could do is admit they’re right. And keep pedaling.

END

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Phun with Phil

August 7, 2018 § 5 Comments

Every Saturday morning since the late Ice Age, long before bicycles were invented, cyclists have gathered at the spot in the Riviera Village where there now stands a Starbucks but where used to stand a Winchell’s Donuts. The Winchell’s was torn down in a fit of health food fury and the grease-soaked, sugar-caked lard rings, and cheap coffee were replaced by a purveyor of finest healthy items such as the Starbucks Old Fashioned Donut, the Starbucks Frappuccino, and the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The donuts are long gone but the Donut Ride remains.

Greasiest Donut of the year

The biggest, oiliest, most sugar-infused Donut Ride of the year always occurs on the Saturday of Wanky Weekend, a/k/a the South Bay Cycling Awards, which beginning this year has combined forces with the All Clubs BBQ to bring together the best two aspects of bicycling: People eating food and not riding their bikes.

This coming Saturday rumor has it that Phil Gaimon will be appearing at the Donut Ride, rolling out at 8:05 pointy-sharp. Phil is the progenitor and grand master of Phil’s Cookie Fondo, the annual grand fondue held in the Santa Monica Mountains that attracts several thousand riders and the occasional 45-mph Santa Ana wind. The route is always beautiful, challenging, and filled with cookies, which nutritionists acknowledge as being far healthier than donuts.

West Side invasion?

Although they generally keep to themselves over on the West Side, having as they do PCH northbound and easy access to innumerable canyon climbs, a couple of times each year the fierce predators from “over there” make their way to the humble South Bay where they are promptly beaten into place, except of course for those times when they aren’t, which is usually.

Although Phil won’t be going for one of his famed KOMs on the legendary Switchbacks, I am pretty sure the pace will be sporty. It’s been over a year since Phil quit his day job as a UCI Pro Tour cyclist, but he still manages to pedal a bike okay. You won’t be able to say you beat him, and you may not be able to say you rode with him for very far, but you will be able to snap a few selfies and say, like I do, “Gaimon? Hell yeah. We used to ride together a whole bunch that one time.”

END

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It’s going to be fun. Not as fun as reading about it, though. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

In the belly of the beast

August 6, 2018 § 7 Comments

I stared at the three fried eggs and sausage dripping in hot grease, bit into the thick slab of toast covered in jam and butter, and savored the pungent coffee. “This,” I thought, “is the best I’m gonna feel all day.”

Last year we did a ride simply called Big Day, in September, 240 miles to Santa Barbara and back, with the feared Gibraltar climb thrown in to separate the living from the dead. As with so many bad ideas, this one, fermented over the course of a year, lost virtually all of its awful overtones so that only a fruity, mellow flavor with overtones of camaraderie and notes of good times remained. The tannins of hatred, rage, depression, pain, loneliness, failure, inadequacy, and collapse had all magically been softened, reduced, and left to drift to the bottom of the barrel, dregs that memory would never touch.

Due to this gradual process of delusion regeneration, we decided to follow Big Day 2017 with (surprise) Big Day 2018. Oddly, many of those who participated in 2017 were unavailable, busy, training for other events, or simply ignored my kind invitation for 2018. I suspect that it is because they had too much fun the previous year, for example lying on the cement at Cross Creek and moaning at 8 PM, with only forty miles or so to go.

Lessons learned

If there is one thing I have learned in a lifetime of cycling, it is that I haven’t learned anything. But it seemed like a good idea to set up a few training rides before the Big Day, so I emailed the seventeen riders on the start list. “160 miles, leaving PV at 5:00, CotKU at 5:30, pointy-sharp.”

The only person I heard back from was Frexit. “Sounds good,” he said. “Will we be back by noon?”

“You will,” I said. “We won’t.”

At the appointed time and place I was pleased to see Fancytires, Noquit, and Baby Seal. I was displeased to see no one else, because it meant a hard ride with hardly anywhere to cower.

“If I get dropped, just leave me alone. I don’t want you waiting for me,” said Noquit.

“What makes you think I would wait?”

“Nothing, actually.”

Then Frexit rode up and everyone began muttering under their breath. “This is gonna suck,” said Noquit.

“It is strange,” said Frexit as we got going. “I think that people like me as a person, but no one likes it when I come along on their bicycle ride.”

“Wonder why?”

Wonder no longer

Leaving Manhattan Beach, Frexit, who was on his TT bike, got it up to speed, which just happened to be my threshold. Normally you relish sitting on someone’s wheel because it means you will go faster with less work, and they will tire themselves out dragging you around, but with Frexit all it means is that you will go faster with more work and you will exhaust yourself being dragged around before you get to Santa Monica.

This is basically what happened, until we hit PCH and Frexit picked it up a notch. The horrible knowledge that you are an hour into a 160-mile ride, and already toast, is awful.

We hit the Rock at Pt. Mugu at 7:45. Frexit dragged us to the end of PCH then sat up. “I’m very sorry I can’t go with you all the way,” he said, “but I have a meeting at noon.”

None of us could speak, but we were ecstatic to see him go as it meant we could go really slow and not hurt so much. We started taking five-minute pulls, with Fancytires pounding extra hard, perhaps to make us feel nostalgic about our special time with Frexit. In Oxnard we needed to make a turn while Baby Seal was on the front, but he was wearing earphones, so despite our screams, yells, and shrieks, he motored away. I contemplated making the turn and leaving him to his own devices, normally a smooth move, but then realized it would be one less wheel to suck, so we chased him down, berated him for riding with earphones, and continued on to Ventura.

Noquit had “QUIT” written all over her face when we pulled into the coffee shop.

White walls and all

“Do you know this place?” I asked Baby Seal, who had found it.

“No.”

“How’d you find it? It looks like it’s gonna have good coffee.”

“It’s gonna have great coffee.”

“How do you know?”

“I googled ‘coffee in Ventura’ and they came up; the walls inside are white. Any place with white walls is gonna be off the hook.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Dude,” he said. “Think about it. White walls in a fucking coffee shop? Meth heads leaning against the wall with their greasy hair, kids smearing feces on the wall, people dropping black coffee and it spattering the baseboards? You know how much time and money it costs to keep white walls clean in a coffee shop?”

“So?”

“So they’re obviously insane. And even though they’ll be out of business by March, insane, idealistic people make the best coffee. Insane about the walls, insane about the beans.”

We stood in line forever, noting that the coffee shop had perfected the art of making a lot of people wait a long time for a simple beverage, but when it came, Baby Seal was right. It was lights out coffee.

On the road again

We got back on our bikes, surprised to find that a 30-minute stop fueled with coffee and pastries had taken away most of the pain from our four-hour time trial. It didn’t take long for the sugar-and-caffeine rush to burn off, though, and by the time we hit PCH I was fried and Noquit was deep fried. Fancytires and Baby Seal were feeling sporty, turning the screws with every pull.

Just as things looked pretty dim for the home team, Fancytires got a massive blowout. The gunshot from behind made me hope he’d need to Uber home. Unfortunately it was a sidewall gash that could be fixed with a boot.

However, before that happened Fancytires would have to get his rear wheel off, and he set about changing his tire in a most unusual way, i.e. flipping his bike upside down. We looked at each other as he engaged in a wrestling match with the rear wheel, and despite his prodigious forearms, the wheel was winning.

“Dude,” I said, “let me help you with that.” I flipped the bike over, removed the rear wheel, booted the tire, and changed the flat. “Don’t ever tell anyone that I changed your tire.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s like admitting you had your brain surgery done by your car mechanic.”

We examined Fancytires’s tires, and they were really fancy, high-end Vittorias. “Don’t bring these on the Big Day,” I said.

“They’re new,” he protested.

“Yeah,” said Baby Seal “they’re supple and they ride great. Problem is that if you look at them too hard they flat.”

I handed the wheel back to Fancytires, and he proceeded to turn his bike upside down again and challenge the rear wheel to another wrestling match. Baby Seal intervened. “Who teaches people to do it like that?” he mused aloud. “We gotta find that guy and break his thumbs.” Re-flipping the bike, he put on the wheel, aligned it, and off we went.

Everyone gets a break

Although Noquit and I had benefited from the respite, so had Fancytires and Baby Seal, who proceeded to start pounding us on the rollers. Fancytires ground us on the roller at LA County Line, then really ground us coming up from Leo Carillo. Noquit quit.

I dropped back to see if she was going to need CPR or maybe just a discouraging word or two. Baby Seal saw us in difficulty and sprinted off with Fancytires, which frankly is the best preparation of all of Big Day, i.e. killing them off when they falter.

“Just leave me,” Noquit said. She was dripping in sweat, covered in misery, and barely turning the pedals.

“But then I won’t get to enjoy your suffering,” I said.

We fell into a steady pace. After a mile or so, Fancytires dropped back, perhaps guilty about leaving me after I’d changed his tire, perhaps guilty about leaving a friend to die, but most likely curious as to whether he could have my wallet after I expired. “Go on,” I told him. “Noquit has quit, I’m burnt toast.”

He nodded.

“And tell Baby Seal he’s an asshole for attacking his friends!”

Fancytires nodded and sprinted away.

The Big Day Rule

There is only one Big Day rule, and it is this: When you feel really strong towards the end, you’re about to implode.

Fancytires clawed his way back up to Baby Seal, who throttled it hard and shelled Fancytires coming out of Zuma. As Noquit and I straggled into Cross Creek, we saw Fancytires weaving ahead of us, and then saw him veer off into the Chevron for a drink, a snack, an i.v., and a defib. We continued at a brisk clip. For us.

A mile before Temescal Canyon I saw Baby Seal’s water bottle on the roadside. “That’s a good sign,” I said. “Means he’s out of water and so delirious he can’t be bothered to pick up a $40 Camelback.”

“Are you going to stop and get it for him?”

“Fuck no,” I said.

Sure enough, at the Temescal Canyon light we saw Baby Seal, his pelt no longer shiny and his flippers sagging greatly. We sprinted by him without so much as a “hello,” which turned out to be a mistake because as tired as he was, he wasn’t nearly tired enough to be dumped by a grandpa and a shuddering Noquit.

We raced into Santa Monica, where I finally had to tap out. “Starbucks,” I begged.

Love in a cup

I never drink/eat frappucinos, but I ordered a huge one with an extra shot and I can say that it was the finest culinary experience of my life, comprised as it was of pure sugar, ice, and caffeine.

As we sat there collecting our thoughts and thinking how we might get home without riding our bikes, Fancytires shot by. We never saw him again.

Baby Seal felt better the closer we got to home, which made Noquit and I feel that much worse. As we approached the turnoff to Silver Spur, Baby Seal made as if to go left, where he had parked his car.

“Nun-uh,” I said. “We go up Basswood-Shorewood, you go up Basswood-Shorewood.”

“But I don’t live up there!” he protested.

“Quit bragging,” I said.

Baby Seal hung his head, then attacked and dropped us with minimal effort.

Back home my everything hurt. “How was it?” Yasuko asked.

“Awful,” I said.

“Really? Why?”

“Because right now, at 163 miles, completely broken and unable to stand, when it’s the Big Day, there will still be 80 miles to go.”

END

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The money is shown!

August 4, 2018 § 5 Comments

It’s not that easy to get several hundred crazed adults swinging a baseball bat at a stuffed seal trying to get free inner tubes. This kind of thing takes organization, but most of all, it takes volunteers and sponsors.

all_sponsors

The first annual sixth All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards and Seal Pinata Whack-a-thon is right around the corner (literally, it’s in Long Beach, and figuratively, it’s a week away). In the event that the state of California doesn’t burn up in the next seven days, the celebration is going to be intense and immense.

It couldn’t happen without our generous sponsors, and our one incredibly cheap, skinflint sponsor (that would be me). Here are the folks to whom we are indebted. Whether they will be indebted to us after the event is over is another story. With the exception of myself, all sponsors are listed randomly.

Law Office of Seth Davidson: This is me. Is it possible to be indebted to oneself? I doubt it.

BeachBody Performance: Protein powder and energize. The protein will grow your pros until they are hunky and smooth, and the tein will keep you feeling like you’re in your teens.

Race for RP: $2,000 cash donation in a world where cash isn’t simply king, it’s also the queen, prince, princess, nobility, and most of the serfs.

Big Orange Cycling: $1,000 cash donation in a world where bike racing clubs never support socially worthy causes unless there is a lot of beer involved. This event has beer.

Wend Wax: I have written about this stuff extensively. It makes your chain glide, and as they say in Brazil, “Man trim bush, get tall tree.” If you’re tired of filthy chain gunk that gets everywhere, Wend is for you. If you like filthy chain gunk that gets everywhere, why?

Hint Water: Hand crafted beverage in which each oxygen atom is lovingly paired with exactly two hydrogen atoms. NOT filling, tastes great! The first time I drank this stuff I thought, “Hmmm.” That’s because I’m used to overfake waterized drinks. After a couple of bottles, I grew to love it. The flavoring is super mild and it’s straight up water. Now I’m known to push down little kids and senior citizens to get theirs.

The Bike Palace: South Bay institution without the white jackets. The Bike Palace is donating this year’s sacrificial seal pinata as well as the seal stuffings, which happen to include  50+ 700×25-28 Specialized Inner Tubes in 48, 60 and 80mm valve lengths, retail @ $6.50 – $7.50/each, 30+) Skratch Labs Single Serving packets @ $2.00/each, 100+ different gels from Hammer, Untapped Maple and GU @ $1.75 – $2.50/each, 20+ Bonk Breaker Bars @ $3.99/ each, 20+ Pedro’s Tire Levers @ $3.99/each, and a pair of Wahoo  ELMNT MINI bike computers @ $99/each. All of this is another way of saying that they are giving away all of their eaches, so if you need a spare each, you should wait until the following Tuesday.

Evolution PT: One month passes, 45 min. recovery boot sessions, and 12 EPT trucker hats. The hats come in handy when you’re in a truckstop and you need a special rub in a special place and have run out of monthly passes.

Zwift: 2 Subscriptions and 2 Cycle Ops indoor trainers, valued at $2,400. When I saw this I was like, “WHOA! That’s some generous shit!” These are great for rainy days or in California, where it hasn’t rained since 2005, indoor fire days. Zwift has radically disrupted the most important part of cycling, which is making excuses. “Too cold out,” “Too hot out,” “I go to work early,” “I come home too late,” and my favorite, “I hate training alone,” were all taken out behind the house, stuffed in a bag, and drowned.

Velo Club La Grange: Never satisfied with just doing the right thing, the La Grange folks decided to do the right thing with a heaping of money on top. They donated $2,000 to this questionable event and I can only hope they aren’t asking for receipts to prove we didn’t spend the money on a new set of wheels. Because VCLG is extra boss, they did a write-up on their club blog and they’re offering up the gourmet BBQ skills of Patrick Barrett to compete as a grillmeister in the BBQ cookoff. Unfortunately, I’m one of the two judges and Patrick hasn’t sent any personal funds to my PayPal account yet.

Barry Israel DDS + Orthodontics: Teeth whitening treatments which are sorely needed among cyclists and especially me. All those bugs between your teeth take a toll. And if these treatments don’t involve a high pressure sand blaster then I’m giving mine to someone else.

Forte Sportswear / FFWD Wheels: The sportswear is not for your wheels, although the wheels will make your sportswear go waaaaay faster. Forte understands that physics are a real thing, so even when you can’t change the space/time parameter, you can look great not doing it. Forte’s aero line is especially awesome.

Gear Grinderz Coffee: If you’ve been racing your bike at all in SoCal, and goodness knows most licensed racers haven’t, you know Gear Grinderz from their incredibly delicious coffee that jump-starts you hard enough that you temporarily forget you’re about to race with 100 other idiots, going full bore so that you can maybe get 45th or crash out all your front teeth.

Phil Gaimon: Phil is a legend, an institution, a hero, a myth, okay, a crazy fast ex-pro biker dude with a cookie fetish. He is also the progenitor of Phil’s Cookie Fondo, the best grand fondue you will ever do without a bowl of melted cheese. But in addition to the fondo which I hope you will sign up for, Phil will also be at the Donut Ride on 8/11, so you’ll get a chance to test your legs against one of the best. At least until we leave the Starbucks, at which point you’ll prolly get shelled and just be testing your legs against the same old hackers you always do.

Red Bull: Everyone knows Red Bull, a/k/a elixir of life. This is what you have after hangovers, before hangovers, during hangovers, and most importantly, before bike races. My favorite combo? 12 espresso shots, 4 Red Bulls, and a ride in the ambulance.

JoJe Bars: If you’re tired of Barbie Food (so christened by Dan Seivert), you’ll really love sinking your teeth into JoJe bars. They are healthy, fresh, made with zero ingredients from Chernobyl, and unusually for bike food, taste awesome. Two of the reasons that JoJe bars are special are John Abate and Jess Cerra, the owners, who are both accomplished bike racers and well-familiar with the travails of eating out of your back pocket.

Muscle Monster: (Confession: I had to look this up online because I don’t have any muscles.) Here’s what it is: “Monster athletes do not win by accident; it takes years of hard work and determination to be a champion. Need a little motivation to meet your personal goals? Meet your new coach in a bottle, Muscle Monster Energy Shake.” I think in my case they could have put a period after the word “win.”

Methods to Winning: This is the bike team that has done so much to make the First Annual Sixth All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards happen. The best way to get to know these men and women is to go to a bike race and watch them ride away from you. Then you can go hang out at their tent afterwards and chat.

Shift Mobile: Got a flat? Drop a chain? Need to overhaul your bottom bracket with three to go? Jason Morin at Shift Mobile has you covered, and for an extra surcharge he might even back his van out onto the course on the final turn to give you that separation from the field you weren’t able to get through bike handling and savvy positioning. All your bike needs, all the time, on the fly!

Topical Edge: If your you-know-whats ain’t feeling up to snuff, grab a tube of Topical Edge and in a matter of minutes you’ll be killing it. No, this isn’t a competitor for Viagra. Topical Edge is a cream for athletes that you rub on your legs which will, according to their web site, allow you to train harder, go longer, and recover quicker. Wait a minute …

Origin Clothing: If you think it’s easy to make quality cycling clothing, remember what a finicky, whiny, self-absorbed ninny the average cyclist is, and then imagine trying to make him/her happy with ANYTHING. Right. That’s what makes Origin unique. In addition to their DNA, which was brewed by Dr. Frankenstein right here in Los Angeles, it’s designed by bike racers for people who value comfort and style. Also for Stathis the Wily Greek and his beard.

Eliel Cycling Apparel: You know how it gets really hard to say something different over and over again? Well, that’s where I would be when it comes to Eliel except for this: I have three of their one-piece jersey/short speedsuits and although they haven’t made me any speedier, they are durable and comfortable beyond belief. However, dudes like Charon Smith, who is crazy speedy, also wears their stuff, so you know it is legit.

Velo Pasadena: Hrach Gevrikyan has been running VP for over thirty years in an industry where few last more than a couple of years. He’s generously donating a Velo Pasadena team kit and two pairs of Time pedals. A long time supporter of grass roots cycling, Velo Pasadena has been the preeminent shop in northern LA County forever. Hrach also knows the best Armenian place in Pasadena. Be nice to him and he might take you.

Play Again Now: This is a topical spray whose daily use, according to their web site, combats the soreness that occurs with intense physical activity, overuse, injury and age. If it also combats the soreness that occurs with being a worn out old shoe, I’ll take sixty cases, please.

Charity Pablove: This foundation is donating the kids’ games for the event. Pablove was founded to provide seed funding for pediatric cancer research. According to their web site, for every dollar the National Institutes of Health puts toward cancer, only four cents go to children’s cancer research. Pablove directly addresses this gross inequity, driving Powered by Pablove seed grants specifically to pediatric cancer researchers committed to finding treatments and cures. These $50,000 grants serve a very specific purpose—to give their recipients the data and evidence they need to qualify for larger grants, federal funding and go to clinical trial.

Folks I’ve Left Out: There are doubtless several worthy sponsors whose names and contributions I’ve omitted. It’s late Saturday afternoon, I have a monster 160-mile training ride to Ventura tomorrow, and as much as I love everyone, I figure the left-outs will hit me up with an email, I’ll add them in, and everyone will be happy. This only reaches four people anyway.

END

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Look up

August 3, 2018 § 10 Comments

The Turdy France came and went, and for the first time in decades I didn’t follow it, care about it, or even know who had won until a couple of days after. My sole TdF awareness was courtesy of a friend who texted to say that “Today’s stage was like when the bridesmaid coldcocks the bride, grabs the flowers and ring, smooches the groom and says ‘I do!'”

I went over to CyclingNews and saw that the bridesmaid had indeed made a run at the altar, head down and shoulders squared.

That was pretty much it until last Saturday, when I, Damir and Dutchman Georg were rolling out of Vienna, and Damir said, “The Englishman named G-something is gonna win.” It mattered not at all, at least to me. I’ve made my peace with drugged up entertainment. Some people like it and need it, and that’s okay with me.

Keep your eye on what they want you to keep it on

What’s not okay with me is the way that the TdF, pro sports, the news media, and the streets of Vienna, or any other city, keep your eyes fastened on what’s in front of you. Here you are walking down some of the most beautiful streets on earth and your eye can’t help but focus on the marquis for Rolex or the imposing sign that says Ritz-Carlton.

The Tour does the same thing, of course. It tricks you into looking at what’s in front of you on the computer or television screen, because what’s in front of you is advertising, and what’s behind advertising is the global corporate monolith. You need to look straight ahead in order to keep consuming, which is why the designs are so Facebooky appealing and the colors so innately attractive.

Tilt your neck

One of the last days in Vienna I was returning my wife’s rental bike and had to walk along a bridge over the Donau. Off to my right was an imposing skyscraper with a design that can only be described as fantastic. I snapshotted it and posted it the next day on Instagram, and a follower, an architect, immediately posted the name of the woman who had designed it.

The beauty of the building, and the speed with which the person who really knew what she was looking at identified the architect, struck me hard because Vienna is filled with amazing architecture, but the buildings are whored up with so much signage and storefront modifications that you only appreciate the dangling brand names, never the facades they hang upon.

On my last few days I walked around the city looking up, with each glance realizing how little I knew about the buildings that made up the city. They were clearly from different eras, some built after the war to fill in a gaping hole caused by aerial bombardment, others built in the 1700’s to house nobility, others built two centuries ago as tenements for those who lived outside the city’s fortifications. The more I looked, the more I pondered how ignorant I was, and the more amazed I became at having seen so little in such a long stretch of time. This is the kind of missed picture that people who don’t birdwatch never get to see when they stroll along the beach at Redondo, oblivious to the amazing variety of bird life right in front of their noses.

It’s the same oblivion that we experience when we focus our energies on the Doper of the Day rather than the extraordinary people pedaling bikes around us. After a few days of staring at buildings, my neck got really sore and I went into my favorite bookstore, Thalia, to find something that would be in front of my face but not mass media pablum designed to sell me something I don’t want, don’t need, and can’t use.

And man, did I find it.

END

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Window seat neighbor

August 2, 2018 § 6 Comments

It is really easy to get to know a whoooooole lot about people on airplanes. You only need to ask them two questions:

  1. Where are you coming from?
  2. What did you do there?

If the flight is mostly filled with outbound fliers, you can modify it to:

  1. Where are you going?
  2. What will you do there?

You can enhance your conversational potential by hanging out at the aft toilets. On long flights bored people or fliers wanting to stretch their legs will hang out there too, and they are usually eager to chat. The downside is that if it’s an especially active lavatory you get that constant smell of chemical disinfectant mixed in with the organic infectant.

A few misses

The first guy I spoke with was very sour. “Where are you coming from?”

“Moscow.”

“What did you do there?”

“Saw some old friends.”

“Russians?” The dude was from San Diego it turned out.

“Brits. Some guys I worked with in finance a long time ago.”

“What’s Moscow like? I’ve never been.”

“New York. It’s exactly like New York.”

“Wow. In what way?”

He looked at me contemptibly. “Every way. Tall buildings, lots of people, good restaurants.”

“I guess everyone there speaks English, too?”

“Of course. English is the world’s language. Didn’t you know that?”

“I’m starting to get that impression.”

“I mean, where are you coming from?”

“Austria.”

“You got around fine there, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

He shook his head in disgust.”That’s because everyone speaks English.”

“Oh,” I said.

Movie star

I went back to my seat. The guy against the window was asleep. After a long time he woke up.

“Where are you coming from?” I asked.

“Germany.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Shooting a movie.”

“Wow. What kind of movie?”

“Action.”

I looked at him. He was a big dude and in good shape, but really old. “That’s pretty cool.”

“Pays the bills.”

“How’d you get into that line of work?”

He sighed and I got ready for the story he’d told a million times. “I used to play pro football, with the Raiders and the Chiefs. My nickname’s ‘the Hammer.'” He held up his giant hand with its twisted fingers. “You know what that is?”

“A diamond ring?”

“Yeah, from Super Bowl I.”

“And now you’re an actor?”

“Have been for fifty years.”

“That must have been hard transitioning from the NFL to Hollywood.”

“Only three people have ever done it. Me, OJ, and Jim Brown. And I’m still at it.”

“Do you have a particular kind of role you play?”

“Yes. Talk a little, shoot a lot, drag the bad guys off to jail.”

“Sounds pretty straightforward.”

“It is.”

“You look like you’re in pretty good shape.”

“I’m a martial arts guy. I studied with Bruce Lee in Hong Kong. That’s what I’m known for in the action movies I do. Martial arts.”

“Do people ever come up to you and ask you about your sports career? Or your acting career?”

“Every twenty minutes.”

“Have you ever had to use your martial arts on a fan?”

“No. Martial arts aren’t for fighting. They’re for avoiding fights. De-escalation.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. I look at some dude who wants to take me on and I say ‘You’re gonna hurt me, and I’m gonna hurt you, so why don’t we knock off with the hurting and have a beer? They see you mean it, and it’s over.”

We talked for a long time. It was fascinating hearing about his career. I hesitated for a minute, wondering if I should ask to take his photo. “Nah,” I concluded. “Too predictable.”

Before we got off the plane I asked him his name.

“Fred Williamson,” he said.

“It was great talking to you.”

“I enjoyed it,” he said, and sounded sincere.

END